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´╗┐Title: Race Riot
Author: Williams, Ralph
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Race Riot" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                               RACE RIOT

                           BY RALPH WILLIAMS

              _McCullough was not a native lover, nor was
            he particularly bull-headed. He just felt there
           was a certain difference between right and wrong
               and nobody was going to change his mind.
                    Take that Sunday afternoon...._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Worlds of If Science Fiction, January 1955.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


The riot started late Sunday afternoon, in the alley back of John
McCullough's house. McCullough was in at the start of it, and he was in
at the end.

Sunday is thirty hours long on Centaurus II, as are all the other days
of the week, of course; and in summer, at the latitude of Port Knakvik,
the afternoons are very long indeed. John McCullough that Sunday had
finished hanging the windows in the log house he was building, and now
he was relaxing on the back stoop with a bottle of local whiskey. The
whiskey was distilled from a native starchy root, and had a peculiar
taste, but it was alcoholic, and one got used to it.

In the kitchen McCullough's wife was getting Sunday dinner on the new
inductor stove, still marvelling at its convenience--back on the farm
they had cooked with wood. The two children were playing in and out of
the house. His neighbors, Henry Watts from across the street, and Pete
Tallant from next door, had been helping him with the windows, and now
they were helping him with the bottle. They were discussing the native
question. In a way, this was the beginning of the riot.

"It's not that I got anything against them, in their place," Henry
Watts said. "Their place just ain't in an Earthman's town, that's all.
They keep crowding in, first thing you know there'll be more natives
than there is Earthmen, then you just watch out. They're snotty enough
already in their sly way, you let them get the upper hand once, mark my
word, it won't be safe for a woman to walk down the street."

"Yeah, I guess so," McCullough said. He was really not much interested.
His people were from the flats upriver from Knakvik, a long-settled
country where the first colonists had been brought two generations
before to form the nucleus of an agricultural community. He had never
seen more than half a dozen native Centaurans until he came down to
Knakvik to work on the spaceport the new federal colonial government
was building, and it was not his nature to worry about problems
which did not directly concern him. Mostly, he liked to mind his own
business, it was characteristic of McCullough that his friends came to
visit him at his house, he did not go to visit them.

"What the government ought to do," Watts said, "it ought to take the
whole bunch and round them up and put them away on a reservation
somewhere. You can't civilize a grayskin, they ain't even human to
start with, so why try?"

"Nuts," Pete Tallant said. Where Watts was a redneck miner and
construction worker; and McCullough a farmer picking up a little easy
money on a temporary job; Tallant was an intellectual, a dark restive
young Earthman working his way around to see how Earth's far colonies
looked. Watts' yapping irritated him, but there was no point in arguing
against that sort of brainless conviction, he knew. He stared gloomily
off at the mountains across the river, rising clean and snow-capped
above the shanties and garbage piles of the transient workers who had
overflowed the city to camp on the flats along the river; thinking:

Just over a hundred years ago this planet was first discovered by
men. Less than sixty years ago the first colonists were brought here.
They came to a brand-new planet, almost as naked as the day they were
born--two hundred pounds per colonist, including their own weight--with
a free hand to build a new world as they pleased. And already the same
old pattern, hate and distrust and envy, greed and oppression. How
many men on Centaurus II? Perhaps a hundred thousand. How many native
Centaurans? Perhaps five million, on a planet larger than Earth. But
not enough room for both--

"You think I'm prejudiced," Watts said heavily, the need of the
frontiersman to justify his opinions before the cosmopolite rankling in
his voice. "Well, I ain't. I just know those buggers, that's all. You
greenhorns come out here from Earth, you figure you got an answer to
everything, just because we don't have the schooling you got, we're a
bunch of fools. Ain't that right, John?"

"Yeah, I guess," McCullough said absently. The next thing to do, he
thought, now that they had inductor power from the central station,
was to get running water in the house. Plastic bubbles and tents and
shanties and hauling water from the pump were well enough for bums
and single men, but a family man might as well be building a decent
home while he was about it. There would always be rental value in a
good house here in town, especially with the new spaceport and the
government moving here; and later, when the kids had to go to high
school, it would be handy. Some day, too, he would be retiring, turning
the farm over to Jimmy, he and Mary would need a place to live then.

"The old ones ain't so bad," Watts said. "They know their place, and
they remember what happened at Artillery Bluff. But some of these young
bucks, especially the smart-alecky kind the government has been sending
to school--" He shook his head forebodingly.

"Nuts," Tallant said wearily. "Let's talk about something we can all be
stupid about, huh? Women or baseball or something."

Watts flushed. "_I_ know what I'm talking about now, and I didn't get
it out of books, either, I've lived with the buggers. You greenhorns
read all this sob stuff in the high-brow magazines back on Earth about
the noble Centaurans, and you figure we're a bunch of jerks because
we don't slobber all over them too. Noble Centaurans! Jesus! Dirty,
sneaking non-humans, that's what." He lifted the bottle and drank
deeply, tilting back his head and letting his eyes rove. "There," he
said abruptly. "There's your noble Centaurans, look at 'em!"

A group of natives were coming up the alley--in Port Knakvik, natives
did not walk in the street--shuffling along with downcast eyes. They
were a small gray-skinned people, roughly humanoid, viviparous but not
mammalian. There were five males followed half a dozen steps behind by
a female carrying an infant on her hip.

"You see that _kish_ there with her _fotin_?" Watts asked. "Lemme show
you something, you probably wouldn't believe this if I told you, these
grayskins are just like animals, they got no decency at all." He stood
up and waved an arm in a beckoning gesture. "Hey, you _kish_, come over
here," he called.

The female Centauran paused uncertainly, looking at him with frightened
eyes out of a small triangular noseless face.

"Yes, you," Watts barked. "Come here!"

She glanced at the males ahead of her, who had also stopped and were
looking at Watts from the corners of their eyes. One mumbled something
to her. She began to shuffle slowly across the yard toward Watts,
looking at her feet. Watts took a steel five-dollar piece from his
pocket and held it out toward her.

"Here, you _kish_," he said, "feed baby, _viptiv fotin_, get money."

The native took the coin and looked doubtfully at the three men.
"_Viptiv?_" she asked in a light high voice.

"That's right," Watts said. "_Viptiv fotin._" He grinned at Tallant.
"Watch this, kid, you want to see your noble Centauran do something'll
really make you gag."

"Oh, for Pete's sake," Tallant said. "I _know_ these people feed their
young by regurgitation. So it's disgusting to mammals? So what?" He
jumped down from the stoop and took the Centauran mother's arm and
turned her gently around. "No _viptiv_," he said. "Run along."

Watts' face was almost purple now. "What the hell you think you're
doing?" he shouted. He grasped the female's other arm. "_Viptiv_," he
gritted in her face. "You took my money, now _viptiv_!"

"Let go that woman," Tallant said, "or I'll push your face in." He
turned toward the group of males, who still stood stupidly staring.
"Come on over here," he called. "Take your woman and get out." One of
them started reluctantly across the yard. Tallant dropped the native
woman's arm and stepped past her to face Watts. "I told you to let go,"
he said.

Watts thrust his face out. "Make me, wise guy."

Tallant hit Watts in the face with his fist.

Watts was a big man, and tough. He shook his head, wiped his nose,
looked incredulously at the blood on his hand, and let out a roar of
rage. It was not much of a fight. Watts' first blow dazed Tallant, the
second knocked him down, and before he could get up Watts stepped in
and kicked him in the head.

The Centauran woman still stood where the men had left her, wide-eyed
with confusion. She ran awkwardly over to Watts, shoving in between him
and Tallant's prostrate body, and pushed the five-dollar piece at him,
chattering excitedly in her own tongue. Watts twisted the money from
her fingers and shoved her roughly down on top of Tallant. "There, you
goddam native-lover," he roared, "get a real good whiff of one once,
see how you like it."

She was still carrying the baby, she tried to shield it as she fell,
but her body twisted and she came down heavily on it. The baby
screamed, a high-pitched, nerve-tearing sound. The male who had started
back to get her pulled a long sharp knife from somewhere beneath his
rags and broke into a trot, his eyes beadily intent on Watts.

McCullough had started down off the porch when Watts put the boot to
Tallant. He changed his intent and ran in behind the native, and hit
him solidly with his fist in the back of the neck. The native went
sprawling and his knife flew out of his hand.

People were turning to look and popping out of tents and shelters all
around now.

"Why, that dirty native," Watts bellowed, "he tried to knife me!"

He stepped over to the Centauran and kicked him savagely several
times. The other four males had been watching open-mouthed. They
turned abruptly and started back down the alley the way they had come,
but there was a small knot of men there, watching them. The natives
paused uncertainly. One broke away and ran toward the street, between
McCullough's house and Tallant's tent, and the others followed.

Most of the Earthmen had no idea what was happening. The closer ones
could see a couple of natives and a man lying on the ground, another
man with a bloody face shouting something about knifing, and four
natives running.

"Head 'em off!" someone called. "They'll get away in the street!"

That was how the riot at Port Knakvik started.

       *       *       *       *       *

Watts ran off after the mob chasing the natives, perhaps with some
idea of explaining, more likely not--he was in a half mindless rage of
excitement with the whiskey and the fighting. McCullough was left alone
with Tallant and the two natives. The native woman seemed unhurt, she
was picking herself up and examining the infant, which still whimpered.
Tallant was unconscious. McCullough picked him up and carried him into
the house.

His wife was standing white-faced at the door.

"Get some water," he said. He laid Tallant on a cot and began to wipe
off his face. There was a scalp cut where Watts' boot had clipped him,
most of the blood was coming from that; but it was high and it did not
feel like a fracture. Presently Tallant groaned and shook his head and
opened his eyes. The pupils did not look bad.

"How do you feel?" McCullough asked.

"Rough," Tallant mumbled. "Rough. Side ... hurts...."

McCullough pulled up the shirt and looked. There was a swelling
purplish bruise on the chest. He touched it gently and drew a gasp of
pain.

"Looks like maybe you got a cracked rib," he said. "Get me some tape,
will you, Mary?" He took the roll of tape and wound it tightly about
Tallant's chest.

"That'll hold till you get to a doctor," he said.

Tallant drew a light experimental breath. "Feels better," he said.
"What the hell happened anyway?"

McCullough told him.

"That's bad," Tallant said. "That fool Watts could touch off a real
riot, there's plenty more around here with no more brains than he has,
and just spoiling for trouble. Somebody ought to get the marshal's
office working on it before things get out of hand." He took the wet
rag he had been holding to his head away and examined the cut with
squeamish fingers. "Have to get this stitched up too, I guess, before
it sets up hard. Look, could you back my truck out into the street? I
don't feel up to driving, but if I get it in the street, it can take me
in to the dispensary on auto, and I can call Administration from there."

There were very few private vehicles in Port Knakvik, or indeed
anywhere on Centaurus II; but Tallant, who was an electrician, had
a company panel which he drove to and from the job. Though it was
chemically powered--the new inductor station was the first nuclear
installation on the planet--it had the same cybernetic controls as any
Earthside vehicle. They worked fine on paved roads. On Knakvik streets,
however--

"I don't know," McCullough said dubiously, "You think you can make it
on auto? Suppose you get stalled?"

Port Knakvik lay on a silty alluvial plain. In the downtown area, the
streets were stabilized, but back along the river where the shanties
of the construction workers sprawled, they were simply ruts punctuated
at frequent intervals by chuckholes where churning wheels had ripped
off the overburden, exposing the bottomless muck beneath.

"I'd go with you," McCullough said, "except I kind of hate to leave
Mary and the kids right now--I tell you, maybe I could find somebody
else. You lay down for a minute, take it easy, I'll look around."

Tallant seemed to have guessed right about the riot, there were people
running by outside toward a commotion at the lower end of the street
where the native shanties clustered. McCullough saw a man he knew from
the job. "Hey, George," he called, "you got time to do a little favor?"
He explained about Tallant.

The man had not yet been in any fighting, he was simply curious about
what was going on, and this was part of it. "Sure, John," he said. "Be
glad to."

They helped Tallant into the truck. George backed it out into the
street on manual. "What's the dispensary coordinates?" he asked.

"Three-two-three, oh-one-five, local," Tallant told him.

George pushed the keys and they started off toward town.

McCullough turned to see what he could make out of the excitement at
the other end of the street. There were two columns of smoke billowing
up now, and scattered shots. Two men came back up the street helping
another with his trouser leg split away and a bloody bandage about his
thigh.

"What's it all about, John?" A man called across the street to him.

"Don't know. Fighting with the natives, I guess. Henry Watts and some
other fellows chased a couple of them down there. Looks like they mean
to clean the whole bunch out."

"Dammit, that's not right," the man across the street said. "The
natives got a right to live too, they had a village here before we
came. Somebody ought to do something about it."

"Pete Tallant just went into town to tell the marshal."

"Yeah, well, I wouldn't holler copper on my neighbors myself, but I
won't have anything to do with killing those poor natives either. They
can get along without me." The man went back in his house and closed
the door.

McCullough walked a few steps out into the street to get a better view.
The riot was none of his business, and he had no intention of getting
mixed up in it, but the idea of the fighting excited him and made him
nervous. He could not see much, except that there was a lot of activity.

He shook his head helplessly. My God, he thought, all this from two men
with nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon but get half-drunk and start
arguing....

       *       *       *       *       *

Someone screamed--Mary's scream, suddenly choked off!

McCullough ran back across the yard and up the steps, raging at himself
for having left Mary and the children alone in the house. There was
no one in the front room, but through the kitchen door he could see a
native with his back turned, peering out the kitchen window.

McCullough's gun was hanging over the door, on pegs set into the logs,
a gun made from the first steel smelted on Centaurus II. He reached
down the gun as he stepped in the door.

There were two natives in the kitchen; one with a roughed-up look who
might have been the one Watts had kicked, watching Mary as she huddled
in a corner by the stove with her arms about the two children; the
other still looking out the window. Both spun around to face him as
McCullough burst into the room.

For a moment they eyed each other in silence, the two Centaurans and
the Earthman.

"You hurt, Mary?" McCullough asked.

She was frightened almost speechless, but she managed a squeak and a
negative shake of her head.

McCullough took his eyes from the natives for a moment and studied her
searchingly. "You sure?" he asked. She nodded. Some of the color was
coming back in her face again now, and she looked all right.

He looked back at the two natives. He should have them arrested, he
supposed, but to file a complaint meant going to court and losing a
day's work. It did not even occur to him to hold them for the mob.

He gestured with the gun muzzle. "OK," he said roughly. "Get out of
here, now. Get!"

The natives looked at each other. Outside, there was a rattle of
shots in the alley, and several high-pitched screams. The native by
the window wet his lips and shook his head, and the other turned
back toward McCullough. He had a knife in his hand, which he swung
menacingly.

"No," he said. "No go outside. Kill."

It was not clear if he meant the verb passively or actively, but with
the knife not six feet from Mary and the children, it did not seem a
proper time to discuss fine points of grammar. McCullough shot him in
the belly. At that range, the charge almost tore the slight native in
half.

The other Centauran turned and came lunging toward him, and McCullough
fired again. The native stumbled and fell in a heap in the middle of
the floor, half across the body of the first.

McCullough stepped over them to the back door and glanced out, dropping
fresh charges in the gun as he did so. There were no natives in sight
but several white men were in the alley, looking around, trying to
decide where the shots had come from. Henry Watts was with them. He saw
McCullough at the door and called out to him: "You hear those shots?
Two of 'em ran back up this alley. You see them?"

"They came in my house," McCullough said. "I shot both of them."

"Good, by God," Watts yelled. "That's two we don't have to worry about."

"There's one more left," another man called from up the alley. "He
ducked around through Gordon's lot."

The men ran off up the alley on the new scent, and McCullough turned
back into the kitchen. Mary had collapsed into a chair and was sobbing
with her head in her arms. The two children clung to her, staring
wide-eyed at the bodies of the natives.

McCullough walked over and patted her on the back. "It's OK now, Mary,"
he said. "It's OK, nothing to worry about now." His wife went on
crying, and he stood there awkwardly, not quite knowing what to do.

He noticed that the dark purplish blood of the natives, almost black,
was spreading in little rivulets and pools over the kitchen floor. The
floor was of sanded white wood, and stained easily. There were some
folded tarps in the lean-to where McCullough kept his tools. He got one
and rolled the bodies over onto it. As he did so, he saw that one of
them, the second one he had shot, was still alive. The shot had gone
low and mangled the native's upper leg. He stared up at McCullough with
opaque expressionless eyes, slowly bleeding to death.

It was an embarrassing situation. McCullough was not any more callous
than the next man, but he found himself wishing his aim had been
better. He could hardly allow the Centauran to lie there and bleed
to death while he watched, but neither did he feel any particular
responsibility in the matter. The native had got what he was asking
for, and that was that.

Finally he took the native's leather belt and tightened it around the
leg for a tourniquet, got another tarp and spread it on the cot, and
laid the native on it. The corpse he rolled in the first tarp and
pushed under the cot. Throughout the injured Centauran said nothing,
either in thanks or protest, although the leg must have been painful.

He had just finished when he heard voices in the front yard.

Henry Watts was there with half a dozen other men carrying guns and
clubs, all looking the worse for wear. Two were dragging a Centauran
corpse by the pants legs.

Watts mopped at his sweaty, blood-stained face with his shirt-tail.
"You still got those two grayskins in there?" he asked.

McCullough nodded.

"Fine, we'll take 'em off your hands now." Watts half-turned to the men
behind him. "Come on, give me a hand to drag 'em out." He started up
the steps.

"Wait a minute," McCullough said. He did not move out of the door, he
was not quite sure why, a moment ago he had been wondering what to do
with the natives, and here was Watts offering to take them. It may have
been the way they were dragging the Centauran, face down in the mud,
that bothered him. "What you going to do with them?" he asked.

"We got a use for 'em," Watts said with relish. "We're going to drag
all the bodies up in front of Dubois' place and string 'em up to poles
there, for a warning. We'll learn those grayskins what to expect, they
come messing around here any more. Come on, toss 'em out, we'll take
these two along with the rest."

"Well, I don't know," McCullough said. "One of these is still alive, I
didn't kill him, just crippled him."

Watts showed his teeth. "That won't be a problem," he said.

McCullough shook his head slowly. He had counted Henry Watts as his
friend, but he was not so sure now that he liked him. "No," he said. "I
think we better just leave them till the cops come."

Watts laughed. "Cops? There ain't going to be any cops coming. We're
handling this ourselves. Don't worry about the cops, even if they could
get an indictment, there ain't a jury in this town would convict for
killing a native."

"I'm not worrying about that," McCullough said stolidly, "but I don't
like what you fellows are doing, I might as well say right now, and I'm
not going to be a party to it. Those natives stay right where they are
till the law comes and gets them."

Watts' grin faded. "John," he said, "we ain't fooling. I know you're no
native-lover, but we're going to clean those devils out once for all.
If you won't let us in for them, we'll come in anyway and take 'em."

McCullough shook his head again. "This is my house. Henry, you've
been my friend, but I just shot two people for coming in here without
knocking."

Watts looked around at the men behind him. Most of them knew
McCullough. They did not seem taken with the idea of breaking into
his house. Watts swung back to McCullough. "John," he said ominously,
"you're just making trouble for yourself, that's all."

McCullough simply shook his head and stood blocking the doorway.

Watts glanced around at the other men again. One of them shrugged
self-consciously and turned away, and after a moment the others
trailed after.

"All right," Watts growled. He shook his fist under McCullough's nose.
"All right, John McCullough, I'll remember this, and I'll be back.
Native-lover!" He spat on the step and went off after the others.

McCullough watched them go, uneasy under his surface stolidity. He
liked to be on good terms with his neighbors, not enough to give in to
them on anything he felt strongly about, but he knew this would be held
against him, and it worried him, more for the sake of Mary and the kids
than for himself.

He sensed his wife standing behind him.

"What did they want?" she asked.

He told her.

"But, John, why? Haven't we had enough trouble today? Do you _have_
to get in a fight with your neighbors over a stupid native? What
difference does it make to you?"

McCullough shook his head helplessly. "I don't know. I just don't like
the idea, that's all."

His wife stared wordlessly at him for a moment. She went into the
kitchen and sat down at the table and began crying again. The children
ran to her and began whimpering also. McCullough prowled restlessly
about the living-room, stooping now and then to peer out the windows
as men shouted and ran by. The native lay silent on the cot, unmoving
except for his eyes which followed McCullough.

McCullough stopped and studied the Centauran resentfully. Goddam
natives, he thought, all they cause is trouble. He bent over and
loosened the strap on the leg until fresh blood started to ooze out
and then tightened it again. The Centauran winced a little and closed
his eyes briefly, but made no other sign. Ought to have morphine,
McCullough thought, but would morphine work on a Centauran? He didn't
know.

He pulled a chair over to the window, where he could watch both doors
and the cot, and sat down with the gun across his knees. The riot was
apparently still booming along. Men trotted by outside now and then,
singly or in little groups, calling to each other. Once several went
by with another Centauran corpse slung hand and foot to a pole. There
were no women or children in sight, those houses with blinds had them
down, the tent-flaps were tightly drawn. There was no indication of any
attempt by the authorities to halt the riot. Possibly Tallant had not
gotten through, or possibly Watts was right, the Administration was
keeping hands off.

After a while Mary came in and stood by the chair. Her eyes were still
red, but she was no longer crying. "You want something to eat now?" she
asked dully. "The roast is done."

"Yeah, I guess so," he said. He avoided her eyes.

She fixed a plate and brought it to him and sat down to watch him eat.

"You think there'll be more trouble?" she asked. "They surely won't
bother us again, will they?"

McCullough chewed thoughtfully. He thought there would be more trouble,
but he did not like to worry his wife unduly. "Well," he hedged, "that
Henry's kind of a bull-headed fellow."

"Don't you be bull-headed too, John. I know you have to do what you
think is right, but please be careful."

He reached out and took her hand in his. "Honey, I'm sorry. I know
it's mighty tough on women sometimes, but a man just can't give in on
some things, that's all." He looked down, pleased as always by the
contrast of her small, pale, delicate fingers lying in his large blunt
chocolate-brown hand. The contrast seemed especially important today,
for reasons he could not quite place.

Was there some special significance in a black man married to a white
woman, a black man setting his will against white men, not as an
enemy, but as an equal? Back a couple of hundred years ago, he knew,
on Earth--but the thought eluded him, he was not a very articulate or
subtle thinker and he could not pin it down.

"Don't you worry, Mary," he said, "it'll turn out all right."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was almost sundown when Watts came back. McCullough was checking the
tourniquet on the native's leg when he heard a commotion in the street
outside.

"John McCullough," a voice bellowed. "Come out!"

Watts' voice, McCullough thought. He picked up his gun, but then he
thought he would not feel right facing the men outside, who were
after all his neighbors, with a gun in his hands. He looked around.
The double-bitted axe he had been using to trim the logs around his
window-frames leaned against the wall by the door.

"Get in the bedroom, Mary," he said. "Pull the mattress off the bed
and lie down behind it with the kids."

He took the axe and walked out the door onto the steps, squinting his
eyes against the setting sun. The street was full of men in front of
his house, perhaps half a hundred or so. Watts and a short stout man
stood halfway up the path to the door. McCullough studied them in
silence.

"Well?" he said finally.

"This man here's a deputy marshal, John," Watts said. "We'll take your
prisoner and that body now, if you don't mind."

The stout man grinned placatingly. "That's right, Mr. McCullough, I've
deputized Mr. Watts here and several others to help restore order.
We've rounded up all the rioters except that one you've got in there."

"You got a warrant?" McCullough asked.

"Well, no, I don't really think--"

"Then get off my property. Go on, get!" McCullough came down the steps
and began to walk slowly toward Watts and the marshal. "Get out of my
yard!" he said. He did not raise his voice.

"You're bucking the law now, John McCullough," Watts warned.

"Get out of my yard!" McCullough said again. He was about three steps
away from Watts. He took another step.

Watts had been carrying a pistol in his hand. His arm started to
swing up. McCullough let out a wordless bark: "_Haugh!_" and the axe
flipped in a short swift arc. He stepped over Watts' body, the axe
again dangling limply from his hand with a few thin threads of blood
spattering from it. "Get out of my yard!" he said.

The nearer men backed away slowly, not really frightened, but
uncertain. Single men have faced down mobs many times, but more have
been killed by them. In a saner moment, McCullough may have known this,
but his ductless glands were in full control now. He did not really
care, he rather hoped, if he thought at all, that there _would_ be a
fight. He knew he could kill any man who stood against him.

Off to one side, a dozen yards away, a man tentatively lifted a pistol.
McCullough caught the movement from the corner of his eye and turned
and began walking toward the man, head a little forward, bright,
slightly unfocussed eyes intent in his expressionless face. The men
between the two moved back, leaving a clear path.

The man with the pistol glanced to either side and saw he now stood
alone, all alone. There is a nightmare some men know--the implacable
deadly-eyed enemy coming with the red, wetly gleaming steel while you
stand all alone with the pistol that poufs weakly with the bullets
dribbling from the muzzle. The man jerked the trigger and spun about
and ran without waiting to see where his shot had gone, and the charge
snapped two feet over McCullough's head.

McCullough turned again toward the main body of the mob and walked
slowly forward, his eyes searching the faces around him hungrily. "Get
out of my yard!" he said woodenly.

The men he faced were not cowards, few men on that world were, and
they had been killing natives all afternoon, their blood was up; but
this was different, this was one of their own kind they faced now. If
they had been able to see him as another outcast, as a traitor aiding
the enemy against them, it would have made things easier. In spite of
what Watts had said, however, they knew this was not true. McCullough
was not a 'native-lover', he was not upholding the Centaurans, what he
was upholding was the right of a citizen to hold his own opinion and
keep his home as his castle--two rights which are extremely important
in any frontier culture.

It put them in a very difficult moral position, and the physical
pressure of McCullough's steady advance did not give them much time
to settle the dilemma. Half a dozen men were elbowing their way back
through the press now, the marshal had disappeared, there was no one
to start things, and they kept fading back. McCullough never varied
his pace, but the distance between him and the nearest man increased
steadily. He stopped in the street before his house, but the mob kept
moving under its own momentum for another fifty yards, and some still
kept moving. A knot of perhaps a dozen stopped at the corner and
muttered among themselves for a few minutes. One man started to raise
a gun, and another knocked it down. They stood there a little longer,
and McCullough leaned on his axe watching them, and then they moved off
after the others, men dropping off here and there as they passed their
own homes.

The riot was over.





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